Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Regrets (or There Is No Such Thing As Wasted Experience)

Today the Buzz Blog celebration continues in honor of the release of Marley's newest book, Ghost Huntress: The Counseling, the fourth book in her popular Ghost Huntress series. Read on to find out how to enter to win a copy for yourself by commenting on this post (and all the posts this week) and head over to Marley's website for her Grand Prize contest.

In honor of Marley and the ghost huntress herself, Kendall, all week we're talking about making decisions and finding your way in the world. I am the last person in the world to talk to anyone about not taking decision-making too light--I'm pretty much the queen of worrying and planning, which make like a perfect storm for traumatic decision making. But, one thing I have learned over the years is that, whatever decision you end up making, it's going to end up being the right one.* Let me explain by example.

After getting a college degree in theatre, I still didn't know what I really wanted to do with my life. I spent a year doing temp work (at very exciting places like banks, auto parts stores, and potato chip companies) and then decided I wanted to be an architect. I applied to architecture schools and, when I filled out the application for the program at Columbia University, I could apply to the Historic Preservation program by checking an extra box. I loved old buildings, so I decided to check that box.

Fast forward a few months and I don't get into a single architecture program. But I do get into the Historic Preservation program at Columbia. Not really knowing what I planned to do with an HP degree, I packed up my stuff and headed to New York. I spent the next two years getting an Ivy League masters degree.

Now, you might have noticed that I am not working in historic preservation. I'm a writer. How did I get from HP to writing? Did I waste those two years (and the significant student loan debt I still have) on a field that isn't even my career? No, definitely not. Here's why:

During my thesis defense, in the final days of my degree, one of my thesis advisors said, "Tera, you're a very effective writer." He was just softening the blow before telling me I needed to cut a big chunk from the first half of my thesis, but that phrase stuck with me. After I left the program, I kept replaying that statement in my head. It gave me the confidence to actually try to become a writer.

So, you see, even though I spent two years and accrued an appalling amount of debt for a degree I would never use, the experience was not wasted. I feel that way about all experiences, about all decisions in our lives. You cannot regret choices from the past, just because given the same options today you would make a different choice. If you hadn't made those choices in the first place, who knows where you might be.

Have you ever had an experience like that? Time to share and win!

To enter to win a copy of Ghost Huntress: The Counseling, leave a comment telling me whether you've had an experience that might seem like a waste of time, but in retrospect was really important.


* Stupid decisions like driving drunk, criminal behavior, and retro 80s fashion are definite exceptions to this rule.


TinaFerraro said...

Hey, Tera, believing that the past builds the present and future is one of the principles on which I attempt to (calmly) live my life.

So when I'm going through some seemingly ridiculous situation (like when everything that could go wrong did with a simple driver's license renewal, dragging out for months so that I was driving without a hard copy license and causing me to almost miss a flight to Australia), I try to tell myself that at the very least, I am learning something for the future. And lo and behold, there has been another DMV family snafu, and that time, I knew how to swiftly handle it!

Me said...

"The past builds the present" is PERFECT Tina! I'll have to remember that phrase.

brendajean said...

I actually spent alot of time and money on sports when I was in High School. I knew I wasn't good enough to play in college, but I loved them so much I couldn't just quit. Years later, I began coaching girls teams and have enjoyed that even more than I did playing. My friends thought I was nuts giving up so much of my hanging out time to practice, but I wouldn't be the coach I am today had I not. Everything that happens to us helps define and shape the person we become. Nothing we try at is a wasted effort:)

Michelle Santiago said...

i thought going to job interviews for teacher positions this summer was a waste of time because i was quite happy with my then current job (even though the pay was small) and i decided i didn't want to be a teacher. also, i'm always a nervous wreck for job interviews and i hate going to them--but i ended up getting a position and now i'm a second grade teacher. it's only been a month in and it's my first year teaching, but i'm not hating it. and i think it's a good experience for me.

Wendy Toliver said...

Dating. After being with a stream of creeps I thought that since that particular jerk didn't work out, it was a waste of a few weeks (or months). But without figuring out what I liked and didn't like about those guys, I knew for sure that my current husband was the right guy for me!

Me said...

@brendajean Oh, that's awesome! Yay you for sharing your childhood passions with kids now.

@chelley Congrats on the job! I did my one year (7th grade science) so more power to you.

@Wendy Oooh, excellent example! The same can be said for editor/agent rejections. It all adds up to get you to the right place in the end.

nymfaux said...

Great post Tera!!! I definitely never planned on all the decisions I've made, and never ever even thought of traveling the places I've gone, but each decision and each move has led to the next, and I think it's all been a lot more interesting than anything I would have planned!!!

nymfaux said...

Wow--just realized how vague my post sounded--When I was a kid, I planned on going to school forever...And after going to school forever, or approximately 20 years (tot-lot, pre-school, kindergarten...high school, college), I graduated and needed to do something with less homework. I had met a couple AmeriCorps volunteers right before I graduated, and thought that as long as I was applying for everything else, I'd apply for that, which is how I ended up in PA...And when my year was up, a friend was going to volunteer in Montana, which is how I ended up there...It was kind of love/hate, which is how I decided to move closer to my sister...which ended up meaning I left my stuff at her house while I lived and worked 3 hours away at a camp outside of Yosemite (BEST JOB EVER), and when I came back, my work office moved, which is how I decided to join a gym...and then my gym closed and my trainer moved, which is why I stopped going to the gym, and then my sister got transferred...and here I am...and I kind of like it...but in my head, this is only the middle, and I don't know where I'm going next, or how I'll get there, but I do know that I never could have planned it this way and I couldn't agree more that there isn't a wasted experience!!!

donnas said...

Great post. Its really a great thing to remember in everything you do. Doesnt matter what it is you can always learn something to make things better in the future.

Marley Gibson said...

I totally agree with Tina, TLC! I'm of the camp that NO experience/training/education is ever a waste. It's the basics we learn from everything that help us in every other aspect in life.

JB said...

Several years ago, I took some art classes over the summer. I'm not really that great of an artist, but I enjoyed drawing and pastels. I'm still not great a great artist, but I do enjoy sketching things every once and a while.

Kari said...

I thought that taking college classes in high school was a waste of time because I didn't want to go to college. I was very glad when I did decide to go to college. I'm going to community college before the university, so taking the classes means that I only have to go to community college for a year. I also gained a ton of friends in my college classes; ones that were even better than the ones that i had at the time.

Llehn said...

Being a first time mom I had to deal with a colicky kid. All those sleepness nights of wailing and crying grated on my nerves and I wondered why on earth I was put through that. Now I know that it was teaching me patience.


stephhale said...

I loved this blog, Tera. Every time I think about a regretted choice in my past, I realize that my life wouldn't be what it is today if I hadn't made that choice. ;)